Pretty Nose was an Arapaho and Cheyenne War Chief who fought in the Battle of the Little BigHorn, also commonly known as Custer’s Last Stand. During the Great Sioux War of 1876-1877, the U.S. government was actively encroaching on Indigenous lands, specifically the Black Hills where gold was discovered. In an effort to drain the land of her resources, the U.S. government created a genocidal campaign against the Indigenous people surrounding the Black Hills. During the summer of 1876 a series of battles occurred amongst the U.S. troops and the Indigenous tribes, Battle of the Little Bighorn being one of the most significant battles. The Indigenous tribes protecting their territories were the Lakota, Dakota, Cheyanne, Arapaho.
After the defeat of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, the U.S. government retaliated with the “sell or starve" rider to the Indian Appropriations Act of 1876 which “cut off all rations for the Sioux until they terminated hostilities and ceded the Black Hills to the United States”. After years of resistance and unwillingness to surrender their lands, the Indigenous tribes were forced into submission through genocidal policies, ultimately they were removed from their lands and displaced into government designated reservations.
Many years later, Pretty Nose’s grandson Mark Soldier Wolf served in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War during the 1950’s. As he was returning to his community of Wind River Reservation in 1952, he spotted his Grandmother, Pretty Nose, in the field wearing her buckskin dress decorated with honorary Elk Teeth. He noticed that she was wearing beaded cuffs on her wrist that indicated she was a War Chief, due to her bravery, courage and leadership during the Battle of the Little Bighorn. As he was walking toward his grandmother, he can recall hearing her singing a war song in honor of him. Pretty Nose was over 100 years old when her and her grandson Mark Soldier Wolf reunited.
Several years after Pretty Nose’s grandson’s return, Mark Soldier Wolf is granted a letter from the government, stating that his inherent land is of interest to a uranium milling corporation. Ultimately leading to the illegitimate transfer of 200 acres of land from Indigenous title holders to white-owned corporations.
“Today the field where Soldier Wolf and his grandmother came face to face as warriors and veterans is gone, replaced by grounds so polluted with the tailings from a former uranium mill that the federal government must monitor it. Soldier Wolf’s log home is gone, as are his livestock. The land where he grew up is dominated now by a white water tower with the company name “Chemtrade.””
As I reflect on the story of pretty nose and her descendants, many emotions sparks within me. A story of triumph and bravery, injustice and colonial greed.
With each story I read, I feel more connected to the ancestors.
It’s clear that we have work to do, decolonizing our lives, honouring the work from the last 7 generations to make changes for the next.
This one is in honour of Pretty Nose, an Indigenous Woman Warrior that lived and died protecting her family, land and culture. The resistance flows through us, and we’re still here.